The effect of housing on the behaviour of the over-wintered lowland ewe: implications for welfare and housing design
Marsden, Mary Deborah
The aim of this project was to examine the effects of housing on the behaviour of the overwintered lowland ewe, to see which if any aspects of this husbandry practice give rise to changes associated with a reduction in welfare, and where possible suggest changes to housing design and management practices which could alleviate this.To facilitate the discussion of the practical work of this thesis, the role of behaviour in the assessment of welfare is pointed out, illustrating the effects of housing on the behaviour and welfare of other species, along with a brief resume of the nature of sheep housing and the behavioural repertoire of sheep in their natural environment.The practical work was made up of three main parts. These were:1. A series of studies on sheep kept outdoors inextensive conditions similar to the environment in which sheep are thought to have evolved, in order to establish a basic ethogram and time budgeting for comparison with later indoor work.2, A series of studies on sheep kept indoors in conditions typical of farm housing in order to establish changes in behaviour which could be associated with a decrease in welfare.3. A series of studies on sheep kept in pens modified from previous results to establish whether these modifications could alleviate the welfare problems seen.The behaviour of the sheep in extensive conditions was found to be similar to that given in the literature.The main effects of typical housing on their behaviour was a considerable increase in proximity of other sheep, levels of alertness and aggressive competition for resources within the pen, in particular far space to feed and to lie near to a solid barrier or wall. There was also a decrease in time spent feeding and resting seen and in the allelomimicry seen in these activities. These changes are considered indicative of a lack of welfare in housed sheep. By including extra pen edges or walls in the form of solid barriers within the pen and allowing extra space up to 7n2per head many of these welfare problems are alleviated.While there were many restrictions on the practical work of this thesis, a number of recommendations are made concerning the welfare and design of housing for sheep on the basis of these results.